Thursday, October 18, 2007

Experiment gone wrong

My three sons all swear that I burn everything I cook. It's not true. Maybe the toast is too dark, the egg yolks too hard, and the steaks kind of leathery, but I seldom serve anything that's actually burned.

I'm really a very good cook, but I'm a 'multi-tasker' and sometimes after I put a pot of rice or spaghetti on the burner, I get involved with something else while I'm waiting for it to cook. I don't use mechanical timers because my nose tells be when it's done. I am particularly sensitive to the smell of smoke and can usually get to the stove in time to salvage the stuff in the top-half of the pot. Anything burned on the bottom is too hard to scrape off anyway, and I swear I never serve food that has even the slightest tinge of brown.

That's what happened yesterday. During the process of making okara I got distracted a bit by my computer after I had put a pillowcase in the microwave, set it on high, timed it for five minutes, and went into my den to check my email.

Don't misunderstand. I wasn't trying to cook the pillowcase. I was just trying to sanitize it, so I could put the okara in it. You see, okara has to be dried before you make pancakes with it, and I thought it might be a good idea to use the clothes drier. A cotton pillowcase seemed an ideal container, but not without some kind of sterilization first. Enter, the microwave.

Anyway, I had hardly sat down at the computer when my nasal smoke detector picked up the warning. Rushing to the kitchen, I found the whole room enveloped in smoke. It was so thick my gold fish were choking. I groped my way to the microwave and opened it. The pillowcase, which - before I opened the door - had been smoking but only smoldering without oxygen - now exploded into flame.

Heroically, I reached into the chamber, grabbed a corner of the cloth, and pulled it out. Fortunately, the microwave is on the counter near the kitchen door which opens directly onto our concrete patio, so it should have been no trouble simply opening the door and tossing the burning pillow-case out. But there's many a slip twixt cup and lip!

I got the door open alright, but when I hurriedly tossed the pillowcase out, a flaming piece of it stayed behind and landed on the floor. My first instinct was to step on the errant cloth and grind it into ashes on the ceramic-tile floor, but I was barefoot and resisted the impulse. Instead, I reached down and picked it up.

That was a mistake too. The pillowcase must have had some acrylic content because a molten mass of plastic as big as a pair of coffee grounds glued itself to my fingers. Ouch! I cursed under my breath and straightened up quickly. As I did, the top of my head made sharp, painful contact with the open microwave door on the counter. It didn't hurt the door, but cut my scalp and released a river of blood down my forehead. Another curse - louder this time.

Blinded by blood, choked by smoke, and with a flaming cloth welded to my fingers, I staggered to the sink and torqued open the cold water tap to soak my burning fingers and wet a hand towel so I could stem the flow of blood from my head wound.

Then I remembered the burning pillowcase outside the door. I hadn't had time to see where it landed. Luckily, the patio lounge chair it had landed on was getting old anyway, and the melted cushions weren't much of a loss. It was touch-and-go getting the lounge fire out, having to run in and out of the house carrying full coffee cups of water, but cleaning the mess up afterward was the worst part.

I guess my gawking neighbors thought I'd gone mad, giggling like I was while throwing burned-up cushions and pillowcase remains into garbage cans, but I couldn't help it. I was just glad my sons weren't home.

So maybe it's not such a great idea, sterilizing a pillow-case in the microwave. But drying okara in the clothes drier is unorthodox enough without putting it into an unsterilized pillowcase . Perhaps boiling it would be a better idea. I remembered my grandmother boiling the white stuff on wash days and she never once burned a sheet. So I dug out another pillowcase and stuffed it into a pot.

This time everything went fine. The water boiled and the pillow case cooked. When it was tender, I fished it out of the pot with a barbeque fork and carried it dripping to the sink. Standing there with the steaming cloth drooling scalding-hot water, I wracked my brain in vain, trying to think of some way to wring it out. I certainly wasn't about to use my bare hands, one of which already felt like it had been burned to a cinder.

But no ideas came to me, and by the time the pillowcase cooled down enough to touch, my forearm was cramped from holding it up on the heavy barbeque fork. It was only through sheer will-power and personal fortitude that I finally got the thing wrung out. I then inserted the 8 cups of wet okara, tied a knot in the open end, and put the whole thing into the drier.

I know you are expecting something else to go wrong, because I was too. I hate to disappoint you though, but within an hour the okara had dried beautifully and I transferred it to a sealed container without any further problems.

I know this sounds like a tale from Inspector Clouseau, but no matter what, you have to admire my ability to type so well with just one hand. Right?

Cal Smith

No comments:

Post a Comment